Olatokunbo Odunuga examines the life of Abel in this piece and comes up with the thesis that if a man who never had Bible pleased God, this generation of so many versions of the Bible need repentance
Abel was the very first human being born of a woman to please God without the aid of a Bible. He first appeared on the scene of time in Gen 4: 2 as the second son of Adam and Eve. He was a keeper of sheep and not privileged by then to attend a bible college or a theological seminary. So he had no titles prefixed before his name and no degrees appendixed after his name. There were no Sunday School manuals then.
In his days, Moses had not yet come for him to have had access to a copy of the Torah- the book of the Law. In fact, he was born about 2,400 years before Moses. In spite of these apparent limitations, God had cause to be pleased not just with Abel’s offering but with Abel himself (Gen 4 v 4). How I pray that God’s children can be fully assured that God is pleased with our offerings especially where the sources may sometimes be slightly coloured or acutely shady and the mode of giving not according to His prescribed principles in Matt 6: 1-3, Exo 35 : 5,21,29, Exo 36 : 2,6,7, Lk 14 : 33, 2 Cor 8: 4, 9: 5,7 etc
We are in an age when some of us may choose to solicit for and receive offerings and gifts for God’s work from the people of the world and unbelievers in contravention of 3 John 7 (Living Bible). This is quite noticeable on some of our crusade grounds where the crowds often include hoodlums, fraudsters, criminals and unbelievers, who may also drop offerings. This was not the pattern laid down by Him who purchased the church with His precious blood.
At His own crusades, on two occasions, about 20,000 and 16,000 people gathered, if we allow for women and children. For days, the Lord preached to them, healed their diseases and fed them free of charge. His mode did not include registration fees, collection of offerings or sowing of seed. To the best of my understanding, the seed is not cash but the word of God (Luke 8:11), though there are other places for giving in the divine arrangement.
In the same vein, some of our TV preachers who solicit for financial support, displaying account numbers on the TV screen may not realise that they thereby open the kingdom treasury also to anonymous unbelievers, which may include crooks, drug barons, fraudsters etc who may deposit thousands or millions of naira or dollars into such accounts hoping to thereby douse their conscience with the feelings that they are ‘promoting” God’s project. No one who has not given himself to Christ is to be privileged to give to the cause of God’s kingdom ( Acts 4 :34-37; 3 John 7, 2 Cor 8: 3-5).
Some may wish to cite Cyrus, the heathen king of Persia, whom God prospered so he could facilitate the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem. That was a specific rhema-type, an exception and God’s sovereignty. To accomplish His purpose, God can choose to set aside the Logos. To deliver the Jews from extermination by Haman, He permitted unequal yoke for her covenant daughter, Esther to marry a pagan King Ahasuerus of Medo-Persia. To drive home His displeasure with His people’s unfaithfulness, God could direct Hosea to marry a hard-core prostitute, Gomer, even though under the Law, God instituted that His servants marry only virgins. To ensure total victory for His people, He made the moon and the sun to stand still for a full day at the command of Joshua-against the natural laws. To walk on the sea to meet up with His distressed disciples, He set aside the Law of gravity. He is supreme and sovereign over even His own laws, so His Will must prevail. Who can query Him? None. There are people of God who may be regarded as mighty men of valour, but God is the Almighty.
I think, in passing, we should still consider a few common aspects of the numerous principles indicated above. Let us take Exo 35: 5 along with Exo 36 :6. Have we been stressing it to our congregation that only those with willing hearts should give offerings and do we restrain them when the fund required for a specific project had been fully contributed? And do we caution them not to drop their offerings but to wait for the next opportunity if they have issues yet unresolved with their spouses or with their brethren (Matt 5: 23-24) knowing fully well that such offerings are offensive to God? Or do some of us make altar calls in the open for the sake of fund or respond to such calls to contribute cash or kind to kingdom or charitable purposes in spite of Matt 6: 1-3?-(MODERN KJV, AMPLIFIED, J.B.PHILLIPS, MESSAGE BIBLE. Most of these practices are man-initiated ideas and strategies that started somewhere and sometime after the 1st Century, especially during the 10th-15th Century period of the Dark Ages and of course, certain initiatives of prosperity preachers in the last 50 years.
These practices usually originated from America’s prosperity preachers and many people downstream here embraced them hook, line and sinker, even usually “improving” on them. I expect Jesus and the Bible, not American tele-evangelists, to be our models.
About 40 years ago, in his book, ‘Why Revival Tarries’, Leonard Ravenhill wrote that spiritually, America was dying while U.K. was already dead. There is hardly anyone who would not think twice or reflect after reading the book, “Christianity In Crisis” by Hank Hanegraaff, President of Christian Research Institute, about the largest Christian apologetics ministry in the world.
Read also: Christ did not die for us to acquire material things- Emiko Amotsukahttps://churchtimesnigeria.net/christ-did-not-die-for-us-to-acquire-material-things-emiko-amotsuka/
He went to town on some of these “monetization” policies within the Body of Christ. Many of the average church denominations of our time may not be justified to say ‘silver and gold have we none’; rather ‘silver and gold have we more’, but at the same time may have declined in afflatus as to declare “Arise and Walk” and see it in manifestation. Even in some cases where we have a semblance of the Beautiful Gate experience, some of those healed during the open-field crusades may still have to stagger back home and follow it up with physiotherapy rather than “walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3 :8).
At some evangelistic outreaches, among those that respond to altar calls, some saunter forward smiling, dry-eyed, not sober and probably no heart-shift unlike as in Acts 2 :37. Altar Calls have values no doubt, but in the beginning of the Christian era, it was not actually in vogue. In Acts 2: 37, it was the congregation that “altar-called” themselves, not Peter, before he thereafter told them what to do. I will encourage us to read “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” by Jonathan Edwards to see the responses to his preaching in the similitude of Acts 2: 37.
How I love and respect this Jonathan Edwards! He entered Yale University at 13, graduated at 17 with the highest GPA in the University; entered ‘full-time’ ministry the following year and remained consecrated till his last breath at 55. He was in the forefront in the great spiritual awakening that swept through New England/America in the 18th Century.
Personally, I responded to altar calls over ten times until eventually by God’s mercy, I experienced heart-shift (contrition). But in between these responses, l was conscious there were not the slightest change in my life before and after the altar calls.
However, this was my own personal experience, not a pattern, as there are other testimonies of first time conversions. Meanwhile in my former church in those days, in between those altar calls, I was ordained twice. I was third in hierarchy to our general overseer, and acknowledged the most powerful preacher in that Church, yet not converted. However l wish to mention that the very first altar calls in the history of the church was not in the 1st Century, but originated about 200 years ago and popularised by Charles Grandison Finney, Dwight Lyman Moody and General William Booth-all great men of God that positively affected their generation. Once again, I still maintain that I am not opposed to altar calls; just putting the events and records in their historical perspective.
During Judaism, the Law given through Moses was ‘augmented’ with the traditions of the elders before the first advent of Jesus, so had it also seem to be in some instances in our time and may likely persist during this tenure of Christianity before the second advent of Christ-(Mk 7: 5,13). But in the beginning, it was not so, that is, no human traditions or concepts was part of God’s package. Thank God for the life of Jim Bakker who was one of the very foremost pioneers of prosperity preaching in the seventies. He had written a voluminous 641-page book titled “I WAS WRONG” that shocked the whole Christian world, to “retrieve” and to redeem his former prosperity preachings, with deep regret and extensive apologies. I wish you read the book. It is a classic. It is amazing that it is essentially where money is involved that some people deem it necessary to devise various inventions and set aside what the original Shepherd and Overseer Himself prescribed (Eccl 7: 29, Prov. 19: 21, 1 Pet 2: 25). Some of us may seem either wiser than Jesus or more enlightened beyond the standard of the Bible! (2 John 9). But l hope not.
Now back to our focus. In Heb. 11:4, Abel was listed among the heroes of Faith. He was no 1 on the list. His own faith did not come by reading the word of God objectively (intellectually) but meditative hearing the word of Christ subjectively. Let us note that the word of God in Rom 10:17 in its original is Rhema (spoken or instant word); not Logos (written or constant word). The Logos may qualify us to teach in the Bible College or Sunday School, while the Rhema generates living epistles out of us.
In my opinion, many living epistles, outside the bible characters, have walked on this planet. You might have heard of Jacob Boehme, William Law, T. Austin-Sparks, Sadhu Sundar Singh, Margaret Barber, John Fletcher, Jeane de la Mothe Guyon, Blaise Pascal, John Yepes, A.B. Simpson, Watchman Nee, Oswald Chambers, Henry Zuzo, Witness Lee etc. I deliberately re-list some of the names to encourage some of us to read their biographies or their writings. Now, it is even possible to read the Bible through 50 times and not have faith. An unbeliever can score A1 in Bible Knowledge in the WAEC.
Let’s move on. The Scripture says that through his faith Abel still speaks, though he is dead. And l wonder why he will not still speak even from the grave. Let us examine one of the specific laudable episodes of his life. Gen 4: 4 tells us that Abel offered to God some of the first born of his flock, even the fattest of them (N.E.T. Bible). At this point in the history of mankind, God permitted human beings to live only on fruits and vegetables (Gen 1: 29, 2: 16). It was not until after the flood that God permitted mankind to live on flesh diet along with the fruits and vegetables diet (Gen 9:2-3). According to the footnotes of the Recovery Version of the Bible, in my own words, the man was faithfully breeding sheep, not to eat or even to sell because God-fearing people were not likely to buy but to make them available as offerings to God from time to time. Brethren, l dare say that this was a peculiar and unique shepherd who was rearing sheep ONLY to “service” God.
Brethren, what lessons can we learn from the life of Abel? Faith! Obedience! Consecration! Self-control! (He didn’t prepare a barbeque for himself), Faithfulness! (Different from Faith), Love! (For God), Goodness! (Also towards God). These and other positive attributes without a Bible! May God help us who can access over 1,000 versions of the Bible and commentaries within our reach, even in our phones to attain and exceed the exploits and righteousness of Abel, and of the subsequent scribes and Pharisees (Matt 5: 20). And I think I also need the help!